By Brady Henderson
NEW YORK – As he stood on the sideline – where he's spent most of his injury-filled first season with the Seahawks – Percy Harvin watched the decisive play of the NFC title game and thought about what it meant.
"To actually know that I was going to get another chance to strap my pads up one more time and my cleats, that feeling was surreal," the wide receiver said this week. "To know it wasn't just another game, that that next game was going to be for it all, it was pretty surreal."
For Harvin, Super Bowl XLVIII isn't an opportunity to salvage what's been a disappointing season. It's more like an opportunity to redefine it. If Harvin makes a key play – just one – that helps Seattle win its first NFL championship, no one will look back and lament all the games he missed or how to this point the Seahawks haven't seen much of a return on their $67 million investment.
Harvin can rewrite the story. And it's not that hard to imagine him doing so.
Start with the obvious, which is the game-changing explosiveness and versatility that are both his defining traits and two of the biggest reasons Seattle gave him the richest contract in franchise history. Harvin has shown glimpses of it in his only two appearances this season – just think back to that 58-yard kickoff return in Week 11.
"He's been electrifying every time he's been in the game," quarterback Russell Wilson said.
Harvin, by all indications, will be returning kickoffs Sunday, and with the wind and cool temperatures that are expected potentially keeping in play balls that might otherwise sail through the end zone, he should get a few chances.
Then there's the surprise factor. Teams watch every play from every game to get a sense of a player's tendencies and the way he's used within a particular system. The Broncos have all of 33 offensive snaps from which they can derive any useful information about what Seattle might have in its game plan for Harvin.
"We're just going to prepare for the unknown," Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho said.
For the first time this season, there's no question about Harvin's availability or the workload he'll be able to handle. He's had three weeks to recover from the concussion he sustained against New Orleans in the divisional round, which forced him to miss the NFC title game. He's even further removed from the hip injury that required offseason surgery, kept him out of the first 10 games and then sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season after he finally made his debut.
"I'm here now, I'm healthy and I'm ready to go," he said.
This moment is a long time coming for Harvin, his chance to erase a season's worth of disappointment. And don't think that because he has more than $60 million reasons to be happy he was any less upset about missing all but two games during the most successful season in franchise history. So discouraged was Harvin at one point during his recovery from the hip injury that he thought about shutting it down to ensure he'd be ready for next season.
He thought back to that moment as he looked forward to the Super Bowl.
"It was definitely a trying year for me," Harvin said. "I had ups and downs. I had my days with great teammates that I leaned on them a lot just to keep me going. My mom, my family, it was frustrating for a lot of people – me, my teammates, the front office – but we all stuck together and hopefully in this game it will all pay off."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.